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Council ponders pot club permits

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Monday May 07, 2001

In response to neighborhood and patient concerns, the City Council will likely ask the city manager to develop operational and permitting guidelines for medical marijuana cooperatives.  

The recommendation, sponsored by Councilmembers Margaret Breland, Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington, also asks the city manager to delay approval of any pending applications for the cooperatives until the guidelines are established and a citywide limit on the number of such establishments is determined.  

“We want the neighbors to be comfortable with the cooperatives and we want patients to be assured that the city has a process in place for permitting cooperatives,” Worthington said. 

Currently there is no category for medical marijuana cooperatives in the city’s Zoning Ordinance. According to Maio the four cooperatives that are operating now applied as herb retailers.  

The City Council used its authority under state Proposition 215 to approve a medical marijuana ordinance in March that details how much of the dried medicine and the number of plants a patient can possess. 

The cooperatives, also known as cannabis clubs, can legally distribute medical marijuana as long as patients have a doctor’s prescription. Studies have shown marijuana to be effective in treating symptoms of a variety of illnesses including AIDS, cancer and glaucoma.  

Worthington said some of Berkeley’s medical marijuana cooperatives have operated for months without having any problems and in some cases the neighbors didn’t know the cooperatives were there. He said, however, that some neighbors have expressed concern because people tend to associate the cooperative with illegal drug dealing.  

“This is a very different model,” Worthington said. “There’s one cooperative that’s been in operation for over a year. The police have inspected it and there have been no problems.” 

Maio said the neighborhood concerns are valid and have to be addressed. “We need to develop guidelines and operating procedures and I’m hopeful the cooperatives’ owners and managers will come into the process,” she said. 

While cannabis clubs in Berkeley and Oakland have had very few operational or neighborhood problems, the Hemp Center in the Richmond District of San Francisco was robbed at gun point twice within two weeks during April. In the first robbery on April 12, the gunman got away with $8,000 in cash and a estimated $12,000 worth of marijuana.